Nestled in the mountains of Sakyo, Kyoto lies Yasehieizan-guchi Station. Expect for the autumn when tourists from neighboring cities flock to see the changing foliage, it’s an almost eerily quiet corner of Japan.

Rumor has it that a small shop selling pickled eggplant is offering a rare part-time employment opportunity.  For a wage of 1,000 yen (US$10) or more, they will pay someone to do nothing but sit around. Hours are flexible and benefits include arranged transportation to and from the jobsite along with naps.

Mr. Sato headed for the hills of Kyoto to verify this job and possibly consider a change in occupation himself. What he found, however, was the sad but touching truth behind the Mata Tora pickle shop and their weird job offer.

Into the trees

Wet and muggy June is far cry from the active autumn season in this area at the foot of Hiei Mountain, so as Mr. Sato got off the bus stop closest to the station, he could hear little more than the flowing of the nearby Takano River.

Other than a few of the residents popping in and out of homes, there were hardly any people to be seen.  He walked through the quiet street passing occasional buildings in a thick expanse of trees.  Thinking he was lost, he suddenly saw Yasehieizan-guchi Station pop out of the trees.  On the left, as he hoped, was Mata Tora with a help wanted sign posted in the front.

Mata Tora

While Mr. Sato snooped around the front of the shop, he could hear a woman call out; “If you like what you see, why not come on in?” Before following the lady’s advice he checked out the help wanted sign.

Part Time Job

Position: Just Sitting

Age: 80 Years Old and Up

Note: Must Be Frail

Note: Naps Included

Wage: 1,000 yen ($10) and Up

What a weird job and yet totally awesome. Unfortunately Mr. Sato was too young and fortified with bacon to fill this dream position. Perhaps if he went inside he could figure why this place needed a part-time sitter.

Things got odder as he entered the shop. Strange signs and phrases were posted around the room such as “business hours, holidays; depends on mood” and “gossip session space”. Also in the room were three mannequins wearing kimonos with towels wrapped around their heads.

The Staff

After a little checking around, a rather burly looking man came out from the backroom. This man was Takayuki Tanabe who runs the store along with his older sister whom our reporter encountered earlier. When asked, Mr. Tanabe explained why he was looking for a frail old woman over 80 and under 150 cm (4’11”) to sit for money with free transportation and naps.

“I want her to wear a kimono and a towel on her head like an oharame [Ohara Woman] to promote the shop. If I got someone young dressed-up like an oharame it would look fake. Eighty years or older would be more authentic and if she’s too tall it doesn’t go well with a kimono.  Just having her dressed as a traditional local person saying “hi” to passing tourists would help the atmosphere, right? It kind of takes you back to a time when goods were carried by foot around the country.”

The oharame that Mr. Tanabe is referring to are women vendors who carried goods around on their heads.  From this area (then called Ohara) to Kyoto they would walk around with firewood, charcoal or the herb shiso (a main ingredient in this shop’s pickled eggplant).

Why the perks?

Mr. Tanabe continued to explain the other conditions of employment at Mata Tora such as frailty.

“If you were young and alert you would certainly be good to sell pickles but we see women like that in front of shops everywhere and people are sort of jaded to it. Now, if you had a kindly old grandma saying “good morning” or “where are you from?” in that soft voice, people’s hearts would melt.

For older women, just sitting can be very hard work and not remotely close to fun. So, I provide napping quarters as well.  She wouldn’t have to ask and can nap whenever she feels like it. And since the train doesn’t come very often I can arrange a lift for her.”

That all made a lot of sense to Mr. Sato; it was all just a marketing plan for the shop to stand out during the busy autumn season.

■ Three Year Job Hunt

Actually, this help wanted sign has been up for three years now. Ideally, Mr. Tanabe would like to get two or three oharame working in shifts.

tamagoUnfortunately, no one has stepped up to replace the original Mata Toru oharame, Tamago Tanabe.  Tamago was Mr. Tanabe’s mother and would sit outside the shop greeting people in her towel and old kimono until 2012.  During the winter of 2012, she fell ill and had to be hospitalized in January of the following year.

After a three month battle with the illness, she passed away in April of that year leaving an empty space in front of Mata Toru. A photograph of her can be seen inside the shop today wearing her oharame outfit. The photo was taken when a television crew came to cover the store. Mr. Tanabe still has the tape but he can’t bring himself to watch it.

Even now, some tourists who make return visits ask, “how’s that lady doing?” However, Mr. Tanabe gets too choked up to answer.

How are the pickles?

Of course, it would have been a waste to come all this way and not try Mata Toru’s shibazuke which is salt-cured eggplant and red shiso. Having tried a few, our reporter was impressed. The color was beautiful and the taste was equally brilliant and mouthwatering.

No matter how much he ate he kept wanting more with some rice on the side.  They seemed to boost his stamina too.  Moreover, this is the only place that sells shibazuke like this, so Mr. Sato made sure to savor every bite.

And so, with Mr Sato’s mission at an end, he wished good luck to the Tanabes and hoped they would find the best ladies possible to sit in front of their shop with a towel proudly on her head… maybe some charcoal too…that’s negotiable.

Original story by Mr. Sato
Photos and Video: RocketNews24

Store Information

Name: Shibazuke Senka Mata Toru
Address: 113 Yasenose, Sakyo, Kyoto, Kyoto

Business Hours: Whenever they feel like it
Holidays: Whenever they feel like it

Mata Tora is just outside the gates of Yasehieizan-guchi Station.

Mata Tora


They deal in shibazuke: 250g for 500 yen (US$5) and 1kg for 1,500 yen or one and a half hours of sitting.



A mannequin representing an oharame carrying firewood on her head to sell.

The other two are taking a break in the designated napping space.

This hibachi is used to keep warm when winter approaches.

“Hours, Holidays: Mood at the time.”

“The original oharame”

The original Mata Tora oharame: Ms. Tamago

Here she is with her husband when they were farmers.

A more detailed help wanted poster inside mentions the height requirement (under 150 cm) and working hours (anytime).

Heights are measured in the corner.

Mr. Tanabe and his older sister

Not much action in the off season at Yasehieizan-guchi Station


A 250g bag of shibazuke from Mata Toru

A salty taste with moderate sourness and packed with energy






[ Read in Japanese ]